Friday, July 29, 2016

NICU 2.0

After Grant's birth, it seemed like we were in the recovery room forever.  The nurses kept apologizing for the long stay, but there were just no available rooms upstairs.  Eventually, someone cleared me to start eating ice chips, which I inhaled.  Poor Nick would go fetch me cup after cup of ice to eat (and rub all over my face!).  I was still blazing hot and the room continued to spin for hours.  Nick got to go check on Grant a few times up in the NICU and my mom headed back home to pick up Georgia from our neighbors.  I never even got to see her since she wasn't allowed back in recovery (which was different from my birthing experience with Georgia since she came right back to see me while Nick went upstairs to see G in the NICU).

At some point in the late afternoon, we finally got moved upstairs.  Nick had finally gone to the cafeteria when they told me we were moving ASAP, so I was calling him to hurry back to recovery.  I was still burning up and my first request in our new room was for Nick to find the thermostat.  It was set at 75 and he cranked on the AC to cool it down.  Meanwhile, the nurse came in to let me know that the lactation consultants really wanted me to start pumping since I wouldn't be cleared to go up to the NICU until at least that evening.  Pumping?  No problem - pumping and I are OLD friends.  I got clarification that if everything was okay and I was feeling good, the earliest I would be allowed upstairs would be around 10pm (12 hours after my surgery).  I had a new goal!  She kept saying it was okay if I didn't feel up to it that evening.  Nope, I'll be good to go at 10pm.  

Nick went up to see Grant and text me that he was doing great.  He even pooped!  After all the Georgia poop drama, that was great news to hear.  Nick got to change his diaper and take his temperature.  We're old hands with the NICU routine!  The nurses told him that they would be reducing his oxygen later that evening and would even be moving him to an open air bassinet.

I warned the nurse that I was still woozy and that I was starving when they rolled in the pump.  It had been about 24 hours since I had eaten anything.  I had chugged a ton of water, but I knew for a fact that pumping makes me ravenous and I was concerned about getting even more shaky than I already was feeling.  The nurse reassured me that the odds of me actually pumping any milk was not very good.  She obviously is not familiar with my pumping expertise because I had to hit the call button to ask for help as I was lying down pumping and needed to sit up in order to catch the milk in the attached bottles.  I finished, handed over the milk so that they could bring it up to the NICU and immediately knew I was going to throw up.  It was like slow motion.  Nick and the nurse were talking/doing something with their backs turned to me as I tried to wave at them since I couldn't talk in the moment.  The nurse half turned, but didn't catch my wave.  I was searching for anything to puke into and the only thing in front of me was a stack of paper cups, so I grabbed one and quickly filled up several as I started projectile vomiting.  That got the attention of everyone in the room rather quickly.  I kept apologizing as the nurse cleaned me up while she apologized for not believing me about needing some food.  The good news... I was cleared for some liquid dinner.  Nothing like some chicken stock to make you feel less shaky!  I had inhaled my jello like someone was going to steal it from me.

My night nurse came on shift around 8pm and I let her know the 10pm plan.  She said that she would be back to assess me at that time, but really wanted me to hydrate before then, so I started chugging.  At 10pm, she came in and said if I was ready, she was ready.  She removed my catheter and I did the most excruciating thing you can do post c-section - sit up/stand up/walk to the bathroom.  Nothing makes you feel less competent than having someone help you go to the bathroom.

Nick and I joked that in any wedding vows, following the "in sickness and in health" line, there should be a promise about helping your wife pee and pulling up her undies after a surgery!  That really is the meaning of true love.  Since I "passed" that little test, I was cleared to head up (ironically, the NICU is actually downstairs, but I said "up" the entire stay and Nick got tired of correcting me) to the NICU.  They got me a wheelchair and Nick rolled me to the NICU to see my guy.

First thing we noticed is that he was already off the oxygen!  Woot woot.  Following in his sister's footsteps as a NICU rock star was a good plan, pal.  We worked on getting him to latch and he did a great job, but then promptly passed out cold.  Life is tough when you're 12 hours old and 4 weeks early.

My boys

We had a fairly uneventful overnight.  All of my night nurses were amazing during our stay.  They were great with coordinating with when I would pump with our overnight checks so that they didn't have to wake us all up, so Nick and I were able to catch up on a little bit of sleep on Friday night in between pumping sessions.  We both desperately needed some sleep after our Thursday night excitement.  The pain meds definitely kept knocking me out too.

On Saturday morning, I earned freedom from my IV and was able to order some regular food for the first time (hospital food, but at least real food).  We brought up the overnight pumped milk to the NICU for Grant's feeding sessions.  Nick then ran home to spend some time with Georgia, including taking her to her swim lessons in the afternoon.  We wanted to try to keep her schedule as "normal" as possible, especially while I was in the hospital.  Right after Nick left, my doctor came to check me out and actually cleared me to leave the hospital whenever I wanted since I was up, moving around and tolerating everything very well.  However, they also gave me the option to stay as long as my insurance allowed given that Grant was still in the NICU and not ready to come home.

Mimi switched places with Nick and came back to the hospital to hang out with Grant and myself.  First order of business was a shower for me.  There's nothing like scrubbing the scent of surgery off of you.  My mom scrubbed me down after Georgia was born and repeated the task again this time around (again, only something your mom can do for you!).  Once I was clean, it was back up to the NICU...

Holding Grant for the first time

Checking out his Mimi

What a difference a little mascara and some clean hair can make!

My little cuddle bug!

Nick came back in time for Saturday evening and was a rock star with bringing  pumped milk up to the NICU all night long as I pumped.  Again, our nurse left us alone for the most part to manage the times we needed her, so we caught up on some more sleep in between pumping sessions.  Nick came back after the 3am session to let me know that Grant was chugging whatever I pumped.

On Sunday, we were so excited to introduce Georgia to her new little baby brother.  Mimi brought her to the hospital and Nick met them down in the lobby.  

Ready to meet her brother in her BIG SISTER shirt

G was so excited to show me the card that she made for me...

We all walked to the NICU (which sounds like not a major task until you take into account that I was moving at sloth pace)  and then I got to introduce my kids to each other, which is kind of cool and kind of intimidating at the same time!

Holding hands for the first time

First look... Oh my heart!

Of course, a baby brother is sooooo not cool compared to a bed that moves up/down and all around with just the push of a button.  My hospital bed was much more exciting than a new brother!  Once she realized that she could control the bed as well as watch a Disney movie, she was ready to move in.  I gave her a snack and her life was complete.

Nick brought my mom back up to the NICU and then immediately returned to grab the infant car seat for Grant's car seat test.  Just like Georgia five years ago, Grant had to sit in his car seat for an hour without any alarms.


Mimi and Georgia headed home for the evening.  Nick and I got word from the NICU neonatologist that Grant just had a few blood tests to pass and then he'd be released to us in our room.  By that afternoon, we had a new roommate...

The whole experience was surreal.  I've never had a baby in a hospital room with me previously.   It was crazy to actually have this little person be with us... especially with no wires or lines or leads.  Just a baby.  

By 2am, he was wondering who the hell we were and why did we keep sticking our faces in front of him?!?!

We continued to work on latching throughout the night, but he was still falling asleep almost immediately so I continued to pump and then give him the expressed milk. 

We all survived the night together and decided that we couldn't wait to get home.  We wanted our stuff - our blankets, our bibs, our bottles, etc.  It seemed like every time we turned around, we were grabbing a towel for something.

On Monday morning, the paperwork started to get us all out of the hospital.  Grant got checked out by the hospital pediatrician, who was slightly concerned about his possible bili levels (keep in mind that Georgia lived under those lights for weeks on end!).  However, they decided that we could still take him home and just have a bili check at our pediatrician's office the following day.  His weight at discharge had dropped to 6lbs, 4oz, but that was expected.  

By 1pm, we were dressed and ready to go!

Lets go, peeps!

Again, talk about a surreal moment.  When Georgia got discharged from Children's, she was 7 weeks old.  I was almost 2 months postpartum at that time.  We walked out carrying her in the car seat overwhelmed by the fact that we could finally take her home.  This time, it just happened quickly.  Transport came with a wheelchair and I jumped in and carried Grant in my arms down to the lobby.  Nick pulled up the car and then off we went with our baby.  Most moms/dads never even have to think about leaving the hospital without their baby.  The first time was excruciating for me.  This time, I knew how close we came to having it happen a second time.  I will be forever grateful that I finally got the "normal" experience of being wheeled out of the hospital and to our car without any fanfare...


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Introducing Baby Grant...

Last Thursday, I blogged early on in the day recapping the 4th week of our summer adventures.  That evening, we attended the Urbana carnival with some neighbors - the kids loved the rides and we stuck around for the late evening fireworks.

View of the carnival from the top of the Ferris Wheel (that I skipped!)

I felt fine at the carnival, but definitely noticed that the baby was very active and I was extremely crampy.  Not in pain, but just very aware of baby and my growing belly.  I figured that since I was on the eve of being 36 weeks pregnant, I was just feeling the strain of carrying around the big guy.

We got home fairly late, but Nick and I spent about an hour on the couch talking baby names.  We've had our list narrowed down for a couple of weeks, but we were really struggling with the final decision.  Finally, around midnight, we called it a night... without making a final decision.  I took a dose of benadryl and headed to bed in the guest room hoping to get a decent night's sleep.  The past few nights I had been up non-stop (mostly peeing every hour, but also just generally uncomfortable) and was desperate for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.  If only I'd known...

Around 3am, I woke up feeling wet.  With Georgia, I assumed "wet" meant that I had peed my pants.  Fool me once, but not twice.  I immediately jumped up and went into the bathroom.  I turned on the lights so I could better assess the situation... and instantly blinded myself, especially in my benadryl coma!  I noticed that I was wet as well as lightly bleeding.

I was fairly certain that my water had broken, so I stumbled into the master bedroom to wake up Nick.  I called his name a few dozen times before I turned on all the lights and finally screamed his name.  That did the trick.  I called my doctor's office and waited for the answering service to pass along my message.  Unfortunately, when my doctor called back, he let me know that he already had a patient in labor... at the larger hospital near the city.  There went the plan of delivering at the hospital 10 minutes from our house.  I burst into tears as I processed that information knowing that our plan to deliver close to home just went out the window.  I pulled it together enough to call my mom to let her know what was going on so that she could start heading south.  Nick texted with our neighbors to see who might be home and available to take Georgia to their house in the middle of the night.  Nick ran around the house throwing items into our suitcase, as I paced in a circle hoping that the benadryl coma might wear off before I made it to the hospital since I felt very cloudy.  It was also at that point that I was trying to figure out if my "crampy" feeling was actually contractions.

Georgia thought it was party time when we woke her up and let her know that it was GO time!  "Now?!?!" was her response.  Sorry, kid, but babies can't tell time.  We dropped her off at the neighbors (we have the BEST neighbors) and she could have cared less that it was the middle of the night.  I actually had to call her back to the car in order to get a hug/kiss goodbye.  

As we pulled onto the highway around 3:30am, I turned to Nick and told him to make the final call on our future son's name from our discussed choices.  It was looking more and more likely that we were going to be meeting the little guy very soon and I didn't want that decision looming over our heads any longer.  Nick decisively answered me and it was done.

We got to Holy Cross Silver Spring around 4am.  I was brought back to the triage area and hooked up to the monitor (we all know my love/hate relationship with those monitors!).  The doctor came to examine me and wasn't convinced that my water had fully broken yet.  Ultrasound showed that I still had plenty of fluid and we started discussing whether or not to send me home.  Excuse me?!?!?  However, it was at that time that we figured out that I was also having regular contractions every 2-4 minutes.  As my doctor pointed out, "You know that you're straining to talk to me, right?"  Nick was obsessed with watching my monitor and then waiting to see my reaction as the contractions hit.  Yes, dear, I can definitely feel that.

We stayed in triage for a few hours for monitoring.  Around 8am, the decision was made... As much as I was hoping for a VBAC, I wasn't progressing - my water still hadn't officially broken and my cervix wasn't dilating.  However, my contractions were regular and getting stronger.  Baby Thoman wanted out.  At 36 weeks, the doctor was fairly confident that the baby would be okay and the benefits outweighed the risks in terms of taking him out.

This guy was ready to go!

Meanwhile, Georgia was having a blast at our neighbor's house and Mimi had managed to catch the first flight of the day to Baltimore.  She arrived and was already at our house showering before I even went to the OR (and enjoyed her first Uber experience!).  Since G was happy at the neighbors, Mimi headed to the hospital to await the birth of her grandson.

I walked myself to the OR and Nick sat outside as they prepped me.  The anesthesiologist was fabulous, but I absolutely hated the entire process.  The spinal, the catheter, the prep, etc.  I immediately asked for some good anxiety drugs and for more oxygen as I was struggling to stay calm and regulate my breathing.  The team was great and tried distracting me by all guessing the baby's weight just based on my (very exposed) tummy.  Nick came in as they started the surgery.  Almost immediately, my water broke, which apparently was quite a scene.  It burst onto the lighting, the nurse, etc.  I can't say I found it funny, but the rest of the team seemed to enjoy the moment and Nick said it was fairly entertaining to watch. 

The next thing I heard was my doctor saying, "Oh, what the hell?  You are already TROUBLE, buddy!"  Somehow between triage and the OR, Baby Thoman turned into a breech/transverse position and his arm and legs were all splayed out and in wacky positions.  (I later talked to my doctor and she explained that when the spinal took effect, it probably relaxed my body enough for the contractions to slow down and allowed baby to flip)

As I struggled to just stay calm (while chanting "I hate this.  I hate this.  I hate this."), I just kept telling myself that this too would pass.  I remember hating every moment of Georgia's c-section too, but I knew it would go quickly once they really got started.  Sorry, I'm just not one of those smiley women lying there all calm and awaiting the birth of my child with a full face of beautiful make-up.  I'm more the lie there with my eyes shut tight while I self-talk and pray for it to end.

The next thing I know, we started hearing baby cries and the team asked Nick to join them over at the warmer so that he could cut the cord as we welcomed our son...

Grant Michael Thoman
DOB - 7/22/16 at 9:53am
Weight - 6lbs, 8.1oz
Length - 19 3/4 inches

People keep asking if there is a story behind the name... For some reason, we really struggled this time around with boys names.  We also felt a lot of pressure since people still compliment us on Georgia's name.  We narrowed it down to a short list early on and then kept circling around to the same names time and time again.  We knew from the start that we would use MICHAEL as a middle name to honor my father/my mother/his family.  I talked and prayed to my dad daily during this pregnancy.  From the day that I found out I was pregnant, I begged my dad to keep the baby safe and to watch over both of us.  Not a day passed that we didn't "chat."

Our first name criteria included: 

  • Easy to spell (I hate when I don't know how to spell a kid's name or when there is a funky spelling to a relatively straight forward name)
  • On the shorter side --- Have you ever taught a boy in kindergarten to write his name?!?!  The less letters, the better!
  • Went well with Georgia (we actually tried to avoid names starting with /G/ and our final 3 names ALL started with /G/ - oh the irony!  I was okay with Grant since the /G/ is a harder sound than the /G/ in Georgia, which is more of a /J/ sound.
  • A name that people recognized as a name, but that was not common or super popular.  I love that Georgia is the only Georgia in our world.  When we're at the pool or park and I scream her name, she is the only kid turning around.  I didn't want him to be 1 of 10 kids in his class with the same name (says the 1979 Jennifer).
  • A lot of boy names are now being used as girl names - James, Dylan, Blake, etc.  We wanted something that was a strong male name that wouldn't cause any gender confusion
  • I didn't want a name that reminded me of any students that I've ever had over the years in teaching
  • Most importantly the name did not have a vocalic /R/ in the middle or end of the name (sorry, Massachusetts family, but "Connahhhhhhhhhh" was not an option).  

Hence, it took awhile to come up with some good options!

Nick was so proud to cut the cord since he wasn't given that opportunity during Georgia's dramatic arrival five years ago.  He then brought him over so that I could see him for the first time.

At this point, I just sobbed and sobbed.  I heard the doctor trying to reassure me that she was almost done and the anesthesiologist said something about tears of joy.  But, for me, it was more about relief.  36 weeks of just pure worry and terror that at any second something was going to go wrong or that we were going to get bad news like we did with Georgia.  All together, I had 15-20 ultrasounds and 30+ doctor/high risk appointments.  Even though we were never given cause for concern, I was considered "high risk" in just about every category - advanced maternal age, history of miscarriage, history of premature birth, previous c-section, history of gestational diabetes, previous child with a birth defect, etc.  All I felt at this point was pure relief that it was over and that he was here and breathing and crying.  I remember thanking god and my dad over and over again as I quietly cried it out and just felt the relief wash over me.

As they finished up and Nick held him close to me, I started really feeling the effects of whatever pain meds they gave me.  The entire world started spinning.  All I can relate it to is when you have 5 or 6 too many margaritas!  I told Nick that I was really struggling with my vision.  They put Grant on my chest as they rolled me into recovery and I begged the nurse to not let him go because I was afraid I would drop him because of how bad I felt.  I did not experience the same issues after Georgia's c-section, so this was all new to me.  I was very warm and trying to kick off blankets (with numb legs).  I immediately started begging the nurse for ice chips as soon as we got to recovery.  I was blazing hot (and would be for the next 36 hours).  I'd love to find out what drug they gave me at the end so I can request to NEVER have it ever again.  

Since his arm was in such a weird position during delivery, they ordered an x-ray on Grant to make sure it wasn't injured.  They also gave him a little bit of formula because he wasn't latching right away and his blood sugar was a little low.  Nick got to cuddle with him and they kept bringing him over to me to lay on my chest for short periods of time.  Nick went out into the waiting room to brief my mom on the on-goings.  We also learned that we were more likely going to be hanging out in the recovery room for quite a bit longer since there were no beds available upstairs (we overheard the poor people in the bed next to us say that they had been in recovery for 12 hours).

Having a little formula to boost his blood sugar

We noticed that Grant was "squeaky" and grunting a bit while crying/making noises.  One nurse commented that it was common for c-section babies to grunt since they don't get that good squeeze of coming out of the birth canal so they end up with junk in their lungs.  At that point, a doctor came over and told us that they were going to bring him up to the NICU for observation and to give him some extra oxygen.  To say I lost it was an understatement.  For some reason, every single worry that I had came crashing back to me.  Another baby in the NICU?!?  The doctor and nurse tried to reassure me that he was fine, but I was really struggling to even speak as I just cried and cried at the thought of having to possibly leave another baby in the NICU when I was discharged.  I know I was jumping way ahead, but a million thoughts and concerns ran through my head.  This just wasn't the plan... again!  I heard the nurse tell me that he was fine and that it was completely typical for a 36 week old c-section preemie to need a little extra support, but I was devastated that someone was taking a baby from me again.  They brought him over to me so that I could say goodbye and give him a kiss.

My mom and Nick headed up to the NICU as soon as they could to check on Grant.  Nick came back saying that he was doing great.  The arm xray was clear and they were just going to keep an eye on him for a bit.  Nick even brought me a picture of his monitor to show me how great his stats were up there.

My little chunky monkey in the NICU

We continued to wait in recovery for a bed to open upstairs.  I still was feeling completely out of it as congratulations texts and well-wishes rolled in from family/friends.  I dozed on/off and just kept hoping that the spinning would end as I started regaining feelings in my lower body.  I let the nurse know that I hated her guts as she kept coming in every 15 minutes to push on my abdomen to help with the healing process.  Talk about pain!  I vividly remember that horrible pain from Georgia's recovery room too, but holy hell.  

That just about wraps up the actual "birthing" experience.  Next up, I'll cover the rest of our hospital stay... settling into our room, visiting Grant in the NICU, and bringing Georgia to the hospital to meet her new baby brother.

A huge thanks to everyone for all their calls, texts, emails, etc.  We really appreciate the support and love from all of our family and friends.  We're slowly settling into our next adventure as the Thoman4!